What is TMJ and TMD? What is the difference? How Do I Know If I Have It?

At Choice Orthodontics, we believe everyone deserves a healthy smile, beautiful looking smile from the inside out. While you might think orthodontic care is for cosmetic reasons, it’s important to note that it also can have big implications from the inside. One big important factor to getting braces or aligners is that it can help with TMD, or what’s known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. It is a disorder related to chronic jaw pain. Our orthodontist, Laura Windhorst, and her highly trained team are experts in dealing with TMD, and are ready to help you live pain free with our comprehensive care.

About Your Jaw

The "Temporomandibular Joint" (more commonly referred to as the “jaw joint”) assists in the basic opening and closing movements of the jaw. The jaw joint , or what’s known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. It is a complex system of joints, and its complexity can come with painful side effects caused by TMD.

Causes & Symptoms of TMD

Around 40 million Americans suffer from TMD, and it is one of the most common problems in orthodontics. TMD can cause many different things such as: clenching, grinding, facial trauma, parafunctional habits, and misaligned teeth. Misaligned teeth can force the jaws to sit improperly and create tension in the jaw. These can clamp down on the nerves running through the face causing a variety of problems, including:

  • Recurring headaches
  • Face pain
  • Swelling
  • Hearing loss or tinnitus
  • Stiff neck or jaw
  • Back, neck, or shoulder aches
  • Vision problems
  • Eye pain
  • Clicks and pops when opening or closing the jaw
  • Pain in the jaws when opening or closing
  • Grinding teeth
  • Numb fingers and hands
  • Deterioration of joint tissue, which cushions the jaw bones during the opening and closing movement of the mouth
  • And other, more extensive problems


In order to be diagnosed with TMD, your orthodontist will need to do an evaluation at our Saint Joseph or Gallatin, MO office. The evaluation will examine the joint tissue in the “hinge” of the jaw, the fit of the top and bottom teeth, and the structure of your oral/facial structure.


In the most severe cases, your orthodontist may recommend an invasive procedure such as orthognathic surgery (jaw surgery). However, in cases of TMD, your orthodontist will recommend an orthodontic appliance or retainer to alleviate discomfort or redirect positioning of the jaw. For teeth grinding issues, a mouth guard will be suggested. Over-the-counter painkillers, self-messages, and cold compresses can provide mild relief from pain and other symptoms.

Schedule a Consultation Today!

If you feel you may be suffering froTMD, we'd be happy to speak with you. Please feel free to contact us directly or request an appointment with your trusted Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas orthodontist online now. We look forward to working with you in our Saint Joseph or Gallatin, MO office.